woking borough council

PLANS to redevelop Woking Football Club’s ground with a larger stadium and more than 1,000 homes are to be reassessed following passionate pleas to councillors by campaigners.

A full meeting of Woking Borough Council on Thursday last week was swayed by a petition seeking to scale down the proposed Cardinal Court redevelopment, which currently includes a 9,992-capacity stadium funded by house-building profits.

South Woking Action Group campaigners got their message across at the full council meeting

The petition, signed by 1,700 people, was presented by Katie Bowes of South Woking Action Group, who said residents who signed lacked confidence in the council. They wanted an assurance that the plans were viable and in the best interests of the club and the community.

Andy Caulfield from the campaign group also addressed councillors, saying there must be a better solution for assuring the club’s future than changing the area from mainly “bungalow rise” to “town centre tower block” with excessive housing.

The campaigners were supported by Liberal Democrat councillor Will Forster, who has the stadium in his Hoe Valley ward. “I’m against the sheer scale of the proposal,” he said after a debate on the petition.

“Ten per cent of the people in the ward have signed the petition against what could turn out to be a white elephant. We should come back with something much more measured and reasonable.”

His motion asking the council, the football club and developers GolDev to reassess the redevelopment in light of the petition and the local plan was seconded by his fellow Lib Dem ward councillor Deborah Hughes and approved without opposition.

For the full story, get the 24 October edition of the News & Mail

THE 2019 Woking Means Business exhibition has been hailed a success, once again showcasing all that the enterprising borough has to offer.

Exhibitors chat to visitors in the HG Wells Centre

“I was delighted with the response from exhibitors, visitors and speakers,” said the organiser, Paul Webster of Woking Chamber of Commerce.

“The council pre-show breakfast briefing was packed out and got us off to a great start while the atmosphere in the hall was the usual ‘jolly, friendly buzz’, according to Keith Grover, of Networking in Surrey.”

The exhibition was held, for the 16th year running, on Wednesday last week in the HG Wells conference and events centre in Woking. It was the opportunity for small and medium-sized businesses from the area to network and showcase their products and services.

The News and Mail’s own carol Miller with Simon Isherwood of the BNI Woking business networking group

The day started with a Woking Borough Council breakfast forum and included seminars on tips for becoming an exceptional manager and leader, making the most of online marketing and winning new business.

Danusia Jolliffe of TVision Technology, a first-time exhibitor at the show, said: “We have been in Woking for five years now as a business, and it was really great to be able to speak to so many local companies.

“My colleague told me that he’d had more – and higher – quality conversations at this show, than we had had at one recently attended in London.

“We’ll definitely be exhibiting again, and look forward to next year’s event. We hope that everyone enjoyed the drinks reception at the end of the day that we sponsored.”

For more on this story and pictures of the event, get the 24 October edition of the News & Mail

THE Fiery Bird music and performing arts venue has been given a seven-month extension to stay in its current site in Woking town centre with a guarantee of a permanent space when the area is redeveloped.

Fiery Bird chief executive Elaine McGinty

The increasingly popular venue was facing having to move in March next year from the premises of the former Quake nightclub that it took over in May last year.

However, the venue has been told it can stay until October next year by Woking Borough Council which has also agreed to find them a permanent home.

Elaine McGinty, the Fiery Bird chief executive, said she was thrilled by the announcement and said it increased the chance of the venue making a single move to a permanent home rather than having to find a temporary site.

“We met a lot of councillors earlier this year and showed them around. They saw the things we do, such as supported internships for people with special needs, and agree we are a valuable addition to the town,” Elaine said.

She said she always knew the lease was short-term but this gave the venue a chance to show what it could do.

“Woking is back on the touring map for the music industry,” she said.

For the full story, get the 24 October edition of the News & Mail

CAMPAIGNERS seeking to scale down the redevelopment of the Woking FC stadium and associated new housing are to present a 700-signature petition to the borough council on Thursday.

Plans include redeveloping the football stadium into a 10,000-capacity ground, upgraded to Football League standards, paid for from income generated by 1,000 new flats, shops and cafes to be called Cardinal Court.

Developers wish to redevelop Woking FC stadium into a 10,000 seat ground, in line with Football League standards

The petition calling for a smaller development will be presented on 17 October by Katie Bowes, a South Woking Action Group (SWAG) committee member, who will also take part in a question and answer session,

Katie said the group had collected a total of 1,700 signatures, but the bulk of these were on a petition on the change.org website, which was not recognised by the council.

“We had to close the new petition in order to get the opportunity to present it to the council and speak about it,” she said.

Katie said SWAG supported the football club and wanted to see investment into it, but believed this should be done in a phased way.

“This proposal could be the financial ruin of the club which will struggle to fill and maintain the new stadium.”

She said a smaller redevelopment of the football club would mean that associated housing development would be on a smaller scale.

“It will be more respectful to the local community and not create a precedent for high-rise development.”

SWAG gave out about 1,000 leaflets at the Wrexham game last Saturday addressed to Cards fans. The leaflet said that the club would have to relocate for at least two seasons if the development went ahead and that ticket prices were likely to increase.

The leaflet also invited fans to go to the council meeting this Thursday to hear the presentation of the petition.

“We are encouraging anybody in the borough who is interested in ensuring the neighbourhood doesn’t become high rise and high density to come along,” Katie said.

WOKING Means Business opens its doors for the sixteenth time on Wednesday to provide the perfect platform for companies wishing to take advantage of all that this enterprising town has to offer.

The event, on 16 October, is probably the longest-established business-to-business expo in Surrey.

STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD – Woking Means Business invariably attracts a large and attentive audience

Those keen to get right up to date with developments in the town can attend the free Woking Borough Council Breakfast Briefing at 7.45am (for an 8.15am start), immediately prior to the show opening.

Speakers include the leader of the council, David Bittleston; chief executive, Ray Morgan; and guest speaker Ruth Nic Aoidh, executive director, commercial & legal at McLaren Automotive.

Anyone wishing to attend this event can do so if they register at www.wokingmeansbusiness.com/seminars, click on the main registration page link and book on Eventbrite. Pre-booking is essential as this event is always oversubscribed. For those unable to get to the breakfast, the council will be represented on the Woking Works stand no 6.

The early forum gives the show a substantial boost because the hall is quickly filled with delegates from breakfast and visitors as soon as the exhibition opens at 9.30am.

Last year’s Woking Means Business event attracted a great turnout

There will be a fascinating range of products and services on show, with exhibitors including Woking Borough Council, DoubleTree by Hilton, Woking Football Club, Lansbury Business Estate, who have not missed a show since it started in 2004, Menzies, Woking & Sam Beare Hospices, Eagle Radio, Woking News & Mail, Truffles, Headline Design & Print, Madlins, Curchod & Co, Tvision Technology, CCS Insurance, and the Talbot Inn.

There are three speakers on the seminar programme at 10.30, 11.30 and 12.30. All three consider different but essential aspects of running a successful business and explain how visitors can increase their knowledge and enhance their skills.

At 10.30am, Dene Stuart will present How to become an Exceptional Manager and Leader; an hour later, Paul Squires offers practical advice on how to make the most of your marketing online; and at 12.30, Richard Maybury delivers Win Easier in your Business – Top Tips from “Mr Productivity”.

Places can be booked at the same seminar link mentioned above.

Car Parking for Woking Means Business

During the regeneration of Woking Town Centre, parking has become more difficult. The council’s live link will show car park spaces available when you visit Woking Means Business.


For the full story get the 10 October edition of the News & Mail

INSPIRATIONAL and life-affirming posters are being put up around Woking to coincide with World Mental Health Day today.

The Life Designs Hope Campaign has been put together by graphic designer Zoe Rutland and her friend Jude Thomas, who was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in her early twenties.

Jude Thomas (left) and Zoe Rutland with their poster designs

The Hope Campaign has been funded and supported by local businesses, charities and Woking Borough Council.

Jude said that the campaign’s aim was “bringing positive messages of hope into the community which enhance people’s wellbeing and signpost people to support”.

There are four vibrant posters, each with a different message of hope: “You are enough”, “You have purpose”, “You are not alone” and “You matter”. They point people to the charity Woking Mind, which offers an extensive range of support, including drop-in sessions, groups and courses to help support people with their mental health, to help prevent mental health problems from escalating and supporting people’s recovery.

The designs are also on sale and can be bought with 10% of the profits going to Woking Mind.

Jude said she hoped the campaign would continue and grow.

“We’d really like to link in with the calendar of events focusing on mental health,” she said.

For more information, see the Life Designs Facebook page @zoeslifedesigns and #HopeCampaign.

For the full story get the 10 October edition of the News & Mail

A WOKING childcare centre is to close weeks after it raised more than £400 for charity at a concert of music, dance and drama, performed by staff members.

The concert, by Treasure Cove, in Guildford Road, was hoped to be the first of an annual event but last week it announced that it will open for the last time on Saturday 5 October because the building is scheduled for demolition early next year and the play centre has been unable to find an alternative site.

Treasure Cove childcare centre is to close on 5 October

A notice to parents said that “separately, we have been trying for a long time to get a business rates reduction from Woking Borough Council but have been unable to do so”, adding that “Treasure Cove is unsustainable with the current business rate levels.”

Yvonne Frew, the managing director, said that 20 members of staff will lose their jobs.

“We’ve been informed there is nothing for us to move to, and the spot that we had asked for in the new Toys R Us development is no longer available,” Yvonne said.

“It’s an immensely sad day for all of us. All the hard work, the money and the time to build a venue and destination that both parents and children loved visiting is being done away with.”

The fundraising concert was held in the Horsell Village Hall and organised by Yvonne after she realised that several of her staff were talented in music, arts and drama.

The money raised was split equally between Your Sanctuary, which is one of the Mayor of Woking’s charities, and Guide Dogs for The Blind.

Ray Morgan, Woking Borough Council’s chief executive, said: “We are saddened that the owners of Treasure Cove have taken the decision to close their business. We were in discussion with the owners to manage the way forward, but due to contractual arrangements, we are unable to disclose any further details at this time.”

Danielle Dunne, whose child attends Treasure Cove, has set up a petition asking the council of help the centre find new premises at affordable rates.

“This comes at a time when many children’s centres are being closed and Woking parents and children have few options for support in the community,” Danielle said.

“There’s nowhere else in Woking or nearby like Treasure Cove. It hosts mum’s coffee mornings, cooking classes for children and exclusive Special Educational Needs sessions.

“The closure will have a real impact on the community and our high street is already full of empty shop premises.”

The petition, which already has more than 500 signatures, can be found at https://petitions.woking.gov.uk/Treasure-Cove.

For the full story get the 26 September edition of the News & Mail

WHEN the credits roll on The Ambassador’s cinema final film on Saturday, it will signal the closure of the venue for a full redevelopment.

An image of the film being shown reflected from the screen in front of the projector

Aptly showing Hook, the 1992 fantasy adventure starring Robin Williams which was the first film screened when the Ambassador’s complex opened in the same year, with special ticket prices matching those of 1992 at £3.20, it will mark the end of an era.

The cinema’s remaining original projector, Series 1.

“It’s going to be more than just a refurbishment,” said cinema project director Simon Thomsett. “We’re going to strip the whole of the existing building out and start again.”

Including investment from Woking Borough Council and Ambassador Theatre Group, the project marks a significant collaboration as part of the town-wide regeneration. The project will see the cinema closed until summer 2020. 

The redevelopment plans include increasing the number of screens from six to seven, a bar and casual lounge areas plus a media room for education, research, archives and meetings. Work is set to begin directly after closing on 28 September.

To hear updates about the project, you can sign up at atgtickets.com/cinema2020.

For the full story get the 26 September edition of the News & Mail

THE Liberal Democrats have turned down an offer from Woking’s ruling Conservatives to have seats on the borough council’s executive.

Council leader David Bittleston invited two opposition councillors to join the committee after winning a confidence vote at a special meeting last week.

Council Leader Cllr David Bittleston

But Lib Dem councillors Ken Howard and Ian Johnson have declined to sit with the Tories on the council’s main decision-making body.

Cllr Bittleston faced the confidence vote – proposed by his party – at a meeting of councillors described by the Lib Dem group leader as an “absolute joke”.

The leader of a minority administration, he made his offer of executive places after 13 Conservatives voted in support of his leadership, with two Independents voting against and 13 Lib Dem and Labour councillors abstaining.

Lib-Dem group leader Cllr Ann-Marie Barker called the most recent confidence vote “an absolute joke”

Cllr Howard, who was offered a climate change responsibility on the executive, said this week: “It could be quite difficult being an opposition member of a Tory executive when it takes decisions I don’t agree with. There doesn’t seem to be any advantage in it.

“I would like Woking to be taking a lead on climate change, but I can continue to pursue this as chairman of the climate change working group,” added the St John’s representative, who has been a councillor since 2000.

A meeting of the executive scheduled for last Thursday was cancelled in favour of a special debate prompted by Cllr Bittleston losing a Labour no-confidence motion in July. Lib Dem leader Ann-Marie Barker had followed up the lost vote by telling Cllr Bittleston he should have his status as leader of the council confirmed by the Conservative group.

However, it was ruled by council chief executive Ray Morgan that only the full council can confirm the leader.

For the full story get the 19 September edition of the News & Mail

A RESOUNDING all-party “no” was the verdict at last Thursday’s Woking Borough Council meeting in response to a recommendation by the executive committee to support RHS Wisley’s application for a grant of £100,000.

There was an impressive display of unity from councillors across the political spectrum in their unequivocal rejection of the proposal.

RHS Wisley requested a grant of £100,000

Only council leader David Bittleston supported the motion to approve the grant, with 24 voting against the motion and four abstentions.

First to speak in the debate was Liberal Democrat Will Forster.

“The Lib Dems and I do not support this application for a grant to RHS Wisley,” he said.

Cllr Forster said that, last year, Citizens Advice, Woking, got £38,000 less than the year before, and the local credit union asked for £18,000 in grants but got £12,000.

Cllr David Bittleston argued strongly in favour of approving the grant

“When the Meadow Sports Group in my ward, which supports young people getting physically active and having a healthy lifestyle, sought £15,000 funding, they secured just £4,000,” he said.

“When another organisation outside our borough, the Surrey Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre, sought £25,000 for work they do in our area in a building inside our area, not outside, they didn’t get anything – not a penny,” added Cllr Forster.

Cllr Bittleston was vigorous in his support for the application. He said the RHS Wisley grant would not affect other revenue account grants, as it would come from the capital account.

“We already give significantly more – 10 times more in some cases – to local community groups than many other boroughs and districts,” he said.

“We are an exemplar and the RHS Wisley request would not be a revenue account spend.”

He added that the benefit of giving the money to RHS Wisley “would be enormous for the residents of the borough”.

For the full story get the 1 August edition of the News & Mail